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About The Book

A drowning, a magician’s curse, and a centuries-old secret.

1537. A man hurries through city streets in a gathering snowstorm, clutching a box in one hand. He is Johann Faust, the greatest magician of his age. The box he carries contains a mirror safeguarding a portion of his soul and a small ring containing all the magic in the world. Together, they comprise something unimaginably dangerous.

London, the present day. Fifteen-year-old Gavin Stokes is boarding a train to the countryside to live with his aunt. His school and his parents can’t cope with him and the things he sees, things they tell him don’t really exist. At Pendurra, Gavin finds people who are like him, who see things too. They all make the same strange claim: magic exists, it’s leaking back into our world, and it’s bringing something terrible with it.

First in an astonishingly imaginative fantasy trilogy, Advent describes how magic was lost to humanity, and how a fifteen-year-old boy discovers that its return is his inheritance. It begins in a world recognizably our own, and ends an extraordinarily long way from where it started—somewhere much bigger, stranger, and richer.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Advent includes an introduction, discussion questions and ideas for enhancing your book club The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


When Gavin, a fifteen-year-old Londoner, is sent to visit his aunt in the countryside, he finds out that his parents and school administrators were wrong when they told him his unusual visions didn’t really exist. In remote Cornwall, not only does he discover there are indeed others like him, but that the powerful return of magic—once lost to the world—is his extraordinary and dangerous inheritance.  

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. James Treadwell has described Advent. as “a story about magic coming into our world and [the characters] being forced to confront it, deal with it and think about what it might mean.” In what ways does the incorporation of magic into the “real” world, rather than in an alternate realm, enhance the story? How does Advent compare to other fantasy novels you have read?
2. How is Gavin a typical teenager? In what ways does his “gift” make adolescence even more difficult? What is his reaction when he learns Nigel and Isabel are not his parents? When he finds out his true destiny, does he see it as something positive or negative?
3. When Gavin arrives at Pendurra he feels as if “he’d discovered the magic wardrobe in the spare room, the rusty gate in the untrodden back alley that opened into another world.” (p. 91) How does the author create a sense of place in Advent. ? Would you consider Pendurra to be a sort of character? If so, how would you describe it?
4. Johannes went looking for the most beautiful woman in the world, but it turns out Helen of Troy wasn’t the one who captivated his interest. Why was he drawn to Cassandra? What did she see and value in him?
5. How are Gavin and Hester treated differently? Would it be easier for an adult or a teenager to admit to their "gift"? The reporter, JP, decides to tell the truth in a radio interview about what took place in Cornwall. How would you respond if you heard JP’s interview on the radio?"
6. Why is Gavin surprised to find out Miss Grey visits someone besides him, and that her other “victim” is an “ordinary middle-aged woman”? (p. 231) Describe Hester and Gavin’s relationship. Why does Hester believe Gavin saved her life?
7. Gavin admits “he’d ignored [Marina], dismissed her the way people had always dismissed him.” (p. 258) Why is Gavin initially so dismissive of Marina? What similarities do the two teenagers share? Why does he agree to stay at Pendurra with her?
8. During Gavin’s last meeting with Miss Grey outside Hester’s house, he realizes he has a choice. He could simply walk away and refuse to take on her burden. Why does he say yes to her request? Does he realize what he is agreeing to? What other pivotal turning points are there for Gavin in the story?
9. “It’s a heavy burden,” Miss Grey tells Gavin. “One took it from me before and could not bear it. The world will find it a bitter weight.” (p. 292) What personal qualities might help bear the burden of magic? Are there signs of those qualities—or of their absence—in Gawain, or in Johannes?
10. Gavin learns that his real name is Gawain and that he was adopted. In what ways do these truths affect him? When does Gavin begin to understand the magnitude of his quest?
11. Why does Horace take an instant dislike to Gavin? Why do you think Horace returns to Pendurra to lend a hand? How important is his role in vanquishing Johannes?
12. After Holly cautions Gavin to run away, he replies, “This is my home. I don’t belong anywhere else.” (p. 462) How does he go from feeling like an outsider at Pendurra to believing it’s where he belongs? How does Gavin change during the time he’s in Cornwall?
13. In the Author’s Note, James Treadwell reveals that the characters Johannes Faust and Cassandra the Prophetess are based on ancient legends. In what other instances do myth and folklore appear throughout the story? How effective is the use of mythology in the novel?
14. What are your overall thoughts about Advent. ? What are the major themes in the novel? Share what you enjoyed most about the book—the storyline, the characters, the setting—with your group.
15. Advent. is the first book in a trilogy. Are you interested in reading the rest of the series? Why or why not?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. According to legend, Dr. Faust was a German scholar and the greatest magician of his age. He dabbled in the occult, conjuring up an evil spirit who offered to do his bidding for 24 years in exchange for the doctor’s soul. Learn more about Faust, the inspiration for Advent’s . villain, and famous works of literature he inspired at
2. Gavin feels empowered after finding out his name is really Gawain; his namesake is a knight and a member of King Arthur’s Round Table. Select an alter ego for yourself from mythology and share with the group why you chose that particular persona.
3. “Under the postcard she had written, neatly, Donatello, Maddalena.” (p. 53) The statue Aunt Gwen thought might look like Miss Grey is Italian artist Donatello’s wooden sculpture of Mary Magdalene. To see a photo of the statue visit Is this what you thought Miss Grey looked like? Discuss your reactions to the sculpture with your group.
4. To learn more about Advent and its characters, read an interview with James Treadwell at

About The Author

Photograph by David Barker

James Treadwell is the author of Advent and Anarchy. He was born, brought up, and educated within a mile of the Thames and has spent much of his life further reducing the distance between him and the river. He studied and taught for more than a decade near the crossing at Folly Bridge, Oxford, and now lives within sight of the Tideway in West London. He holds passports from the UK, US, and Canada.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (July 3, 2012)
  • Length: 464 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451661668

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Raves and Reviews

“A stunning debut.” —Deborah Harkness, New York Times bestselling author of A Discover of Witches

“Treadwell makes marvels from the simplest materials—a blooming rose, a rowan walking stick, a traditional carol—and brings his landscape to frightening and fascinating life. Readers of Susan Cooper and Alan Garner will rejoice to find the first of a new trilogy worthy of sharing their shelf.” —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“Ripe with literary language and classical references, Treadwell’s novel shape-shifts between bewitchingly perplexing and supernaturally entertaining.” —Kirkus

“Its classic story of good versus evil as well as its haunting characters ad rich, inspired imagery will remain with readers long after they turn the final page.” —Library Journal

"A treasure."

– Publishers Weekly

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